On the Line: Ryan Garlitos Of Irenia Supper Club, Part Two

Smiles welcome
Smiles welcome
Photo by Dustin Ames

While dining at the same table as Ryan's parents during his most recent supper club, the pride for their son was unmistakable. His mom also took as many photos of the meal as I did, which was pretty cool. Fortunately for Ryan, they didn't share any embarrassing stories. 

Club orientation began yesterday, but we'll let you catch up with a link to part one.
Now set your music app to some 90s jams and continue below.

Last song playing on your radio:
No Diggity by Blackstreet. We play it at the supper club, along with a lot of other 90s R&B and Hip-Hop. We used to change our music to match the vibe of the space we were popping up in, but the response to our current playlist was so overwhelmingly positive that we just stuck with it.

Where did you grow up?
I was born in Anaheim and lived in Fullerton until Kindergarten. Then my family moved to Yorba Linda. Orange County will always be home to me.

When you're not in the kitchen cooking, what are you doing?
I try to read when I have time, but I also like to spend time with my family or friends. I also spend a lot of my free time with my girlfriend. We met working at Taco Maria, and now she does a kickass job of running the front of the house operations for the supper club.

Hardest lesson you've learned:
Every little bit counts when you're trying to build a business. Every detail is important, and every cent should be spent effectively. Was is pretty much the equivalent of flushing money down the toilet. I try to make use of all parts of the ingredients we use in our food, and if it's something that doesn't make it into a dish, then it becomes a pickle or preserve in our pantry for future use.

When you worked on Slapfish, how come you never wanted to drive the truck?
I was so afraid to crash it into something. I drive a Honda coupe, so the food truck was a little bit of a departure from what I was used to. However, I did drive the Taco Maria truck, and became pretty good at it, too. Just ask Silvia and Carlos.

What's your favorite childhood memory?
I loved helping my grandma prep for holiday parties. She would let us roll lumpia and skewer meat for Filipino BBQ sticks. It was a lot of fun, and we also got to stay up late. I'll also always remember when my mom got me a Super Nintendo for Christmas. I found it, and she let me open it early. And then we wrapped the empty box so I could open it on Christmas morning. Thanks, Mom!

Are you superstitious?
I'm superstitious about sports. Especially if it involves the Lakers or Packers. The Lakers need all the help they can get these days. Superstitions don't really come into play when it comes to everything else in my life. I might be more OCD than superstitious. I tend to double and triple check everything.

Last thing you looked up online:
Christmas gifts for my nieces. They're 8 and 3, and have every toy you could imagine.

What would you be doing if you weren't in this business?
I took a couple of creative writing classes in college, and a handful of film classes. I was also really into drawing as a kid. I like to imagine that I could've written a screenplay or a comic book in another life.

I love food and cooking, though. And even if I wasn't a cook I'd still want to be involved with food in some way. Maybe a food writer? Not a critic, though. I would just travel, eat and write about my experiences. I know, it sounds very Bourdain-like. But you have to admit he's got a pretty good gig.

Do you have any additional skills that have nothing to do with food?
I took piano lessons as a kid, which I hated with all my heart, mainly because I didn't really like my teacher. But I've always loved music, and I'm envious of people with innate mucical ability. I re-taught myself how to play a couple of years ago. I'm not great at it, but it's fun.

What made you go from biology to business to a career in culinary?
I was a biology major at UCI because I thought I wanted to go to medical school. That dream died after about two years. Then I became interested in business. On the eve of applying to business school, I had a conversation with my sister in which she asked me what kind of business I would love to have one day. I told her I thought it would be cool to open a restaurant, to which she answered, "Well, maybe you should learn how to cook, then." I enrolled in culinary school the next day.

The kitchen has been the most rigorous, detailed, skill-oriented education I've ever had. It's a school of repetition, trial and error, and discipline. And the grade you get is written on the faces of your diners and your chef. I immersed myself in the world of food, read every cookbook I could get my hands on and practiced until my hands hurt from holding a knife. I love what I do, and I don't regret a thing.

You can follow Irenia Supper Club on their Facebook page or their Instagram account. You can also reach them at ireniarestaurant@gmail.com.

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